He’s Your Boss

On August 13, 2020, I talked about how my father had developed the “Par Tube” — a system of using paper tubes to segregate golf clubs in a golf bag. The idea prompted my Dad’s purchase of a small company that made the paper tubes — Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company.

I was 8 years old when he bought the company. My folks both worked long hours during the week and I was a latchkey kid. My parents worked every Saturday as well – and that meant me too. My Dad would open the shades in my bedroom at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings admonishing that “the day’s half gone! Time to get up!” So we drove to the factory at 137 South Albany in Chicago (the building had once been a stable for Post Office horses) and I got to know the employees – all Black and Hispanic. And I would work on an assembly line of perhaps four people — gluing little paper caps on little paper tubes.

Shortly after beginning my Saturday tenure working in the factory, I got tired. Got up from my seat and walked back in the office and sat down. My father looked at me just as the foreman – Bill Pemberton – walked in the office. Mr. Pemberton looked at me and told me to get back to my job. I looked at my Dad who just shrugged his shoulders and said “Son – he’s your boss.” And so I slowly got back up and walked back to the line. As I walked out, my Dad gave Mr. Pemberton a thumb’s up. And that was that. . . . .

Par Tube

My father was a pretty good golfer.  He played on weekends and in weekday 9 hole leagues.

Back in the day, golf grips were leather-wound. The constant abrasion of tossing in and pulling out the different clubs would cause grips to unravel. And thus – one would have to pay to have clubs re-gripped every couple years (or try to play while squeezing the unraveled pieces).  

Around 1950, my father had an idea. He bought some paper tubes to put in his golf bag. Each club had its own tube — to slide in and out. And – voila! – no more abrasion!  And thereby – no need to have grips reattached!  Within weeks, friends and strangers would ask where he got the tubes in his bag.  So my dad went out and bought 2000 paper tubes – and a rubber stamp that said “Par Tube.”  He hand-stamped each tube with the red ink logo and offered a local sporting goods store the new “golf tubes.” The owner said he would take the tubes on consignment but if they didn’t sell – he said my father would have to eat them.   

Within weeks, the sporting goods store called and needed more tubes. And the PAR TUBE was born.  A distributor began selling them to other sporting goods stores.  And my father began to moonlight.  Tannery by day – Par Tube by night. . . . .  

In the mid-1950’s, the owner of Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company at 137 South Albany (the tube maker) called my father.  The owner – Mr. Lyons – wanted to retire and he offered to sell the company to my father.  And my Dad – who had twenty years service at Chicago Rawhide – made a switch – and invested every penny he had – to buy and run a business he knew nothing about.  And he made it grow.  And he made it glow. . . .